Nearly two decades of writing has instilled in me a firm belief that the media can and does influence the attitudes of people in a big way. In a huge nation like ours where illiteracy is rampant, especially in the rural areas, it is the cinema and the television that play a major role in conveying information to people. Since the prime focus of most media in our country is cinema related content, films have had a major impact on the psyche of the people. This belief has mostly determined my expression of thought, stemming from a sense of responsibility unbeknown to me.
However much we blame globalization as an engineer of the massive changes it has brought forth in our social systems, especially among the youth, the media should be held responsible for the colossal magnitude of attitudinal changes we see today.
Sensitive filmmakers have tried to raise certain social issues now and then, but at best their endeavours have been superficial, skimming over the reality and intensity of the social issues they dealt with. The film Aarakshan is a classic example of the film that raised questions about reservation. The film ‘3 Idiots,’ in Hindi and ‘Nanban’ in Tamil attempted to bring to the fore the stress on the youth heaped by the parents and educational institutions to take up and excel in professional courses. .
The transition our nation is making today due to exposure to global cultures, without substituting values of our own has brought with it innumerable social problems which, like the tip of the iceberg are not palpable at an overt level. The exacerbation of violence and aggression, especially overridden by commercial motive, seen among many youth, some whom are students of professional courses, is a matter of grave concern. Another problem of mammoth proportions which is simmering, but may explode and lead to a gargantuan social crises is the ‘relationship’ issue which exposes many educated and semi-literate young girls to antisocial elements in the garb of ‘boyfriends. ’ The society has adopted an attitude of mute silence and nonchalance toward this issue which I am apprehensive is a Pandora’s box, waiting to spill out problems of unimaginable proportions. Thanks to many movies like ‘Vaanam’, ‘Vinnai Thaandi Varuvaya,’ ‘Naan Mahaan Alla’ that seem to justify violence or encourage boy-girl relationships in the garb of social equality , but in actuality are promoting gender prejudices, unscrupulous young men are scouring for girls whom they can exploit and take advantage of.
In this context I would like to compare and contrast two reality shows in two different television channels which are entirely dissimilar in the way they have been produced, researched and depicted. The reality show that appears in a prominent national channel in Tamil shown during five working days seems to be wreaking more havoc than the social cause it purports to promote. Handled by an ineffective and professionally untrained anchor, it is appalling to see her trying to solve complex family issues in a manner she deems fit. This serial has reported high TRP rates and has enticed a huge audience of people from the lower ranks who are seeking succor and deliverance from the innumerable problems they are beset with. The ‘relationship’ issue I discussed above and issues like adultery, live-in relationships, child abuse, violence, murder, violence against women…. Everything comes to the fore shockingly in our living rooms as the channel permits an anchor with no training whatsoever to deal with the persons who are more than willing to reveal the shocking realities of their lives. This serial has led to more violence, suicides and greater shackles for the girl child than any other television programme has managed to do. What baffles me is, till today no action has been taken by any media authority or state/central government to even attempt to decipher the impact this reality show is having on the economically deprived families. Well, neither the government, nor the political leaders or the media have ever bothered about them, have they now?
In contrast I would like to talk about ‘Satyameva Jayate,’ which I watch every week with a fervor that can only befit another media person. While my mind tries to critique the show, I am pleasantly surprised by the research that has gone into the making of this entire serial. The diverse issues that have been taken up researched thoroughly and presented with as much sensitivity and dignity as possible makes this a laudable programme. Every episode deals with an exclusive social problem such as child abuse, girl child, honor killing, dowry, disability etc and deals with as many conceivable facets related to the issue as possible. In an episode of honor killing there is an interview with members of the khap panchayat (katta panchayat in Tamil) to give their version and question them about their right to take the law into their hands. Each episode ends on a positive note with a request to the viewers, the government and all organizations associated with the issue to offer solutions or pitch in their support for the cause. The smart move to tie-up the serial with a social cause, enlisting the support of the viewers to send SMS for a social cause and donors/ philanthropists is another master stroke that validates the motive of the serial. The episode on disability was so well made it conveyed the impression to the viewers that the disabled are happier, more resourceful and dauntless in dealing with the additional challenges their disabilities elicit from an apathetic society than people with normal health can deal with their mundane problems of daily grind. A humorous and pleasant episode, it was a sterling example of how inclusiveness can benefit the society as a whole and what our society is losing out by eschewing mainstreaming of disabled persons.
I am sure, seeing the success of this serial, many commercial minds in the regional channels will be working with a feverish pitch to plagiarize and ‘regionalize’ this programme. However, unless the intentions are honest and a dedicated effort is made to bring out the entire gamut of a social problem to the fore, most reality shows with dubious intentions will at best be moneymakers with high TRP rates but will be nothing more than shoddy endeavours.Respond to
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